I really didn’t expect much from ‘my’ Mazda CX-5 when I took it up a muddy, slippery slope in a quarry a few weeks back. The car was only there because it happened to be my mode of transport to get me to a shoot location for a YouTube video, and a couple of the features there were too tempting to resist.
In the end, it did way better than I thought it would, primarily because of the “off-road traction assist”. The system uses the brakes to simulate the operation of a locking differential, and it worked surprisingly well. At that point the main limiting factor seemed to be the road-biased tyres, so to satisfy my intrigue, we got hold of a set of XD ‘Holeshot’ wheels and shod them in chunky BF Goodrich T/A all-terrain tyres.
The wheels have proved pretty divisive with all kinds of social media moaning going on, but a poll on my Instagram showed that more liked the CX-5’s looks that didn’t, so there. Anyway, the main reason we stuck them on was to improve the Mazda’s capability, and they’ve definitely delivered.
Back at the same quarry for another shoot, once we wrapped I went for another play. The CX-5 hauled itself up various hefty features and rolled back down the other side without losing traction once. The only thing stopping me from taking on more was the ground clearance - that’s the CX-5’s weakest link off-road now, with the nose grounding out a little on a few occasions.
There is a little more tyre roar back on tarmac, but I’ve learned to live with it. Plus, the extra noise is worth putting up with knowing what the car can now do off-road, and because it looks so much cooler. I just want to get the car in front of people who otherwise wouldn’t give a damn.
Besides mucking about with chunky tyres, I’ve enjoyed the CX-5 so far, It’s been reliable, and it’s been ages since I had something with a sunroof, so that’s a nice feature to have. I maintain it’s a really good looking car (with or without those tyres), and the quality of the materials inside is decent.
Unfortunately, there’s one part of the package that just doesn’t cut it - the engine. We specifically asked for the 2.5-litre naturally-aspirated four-pot because it’s such a strange thing to be offered in a car like this, and - it turns out - for good reason.
The more I use it, the more I’m sure a 2.5-litre engine with no turbo doesn’t belong in a car like this. We’ve used it as a crew car on the hilly roads of Scotland’s ‘North Coast 500’, and our hired shoot driver - who gets out in all sorts of new motors - doesn’t think much of it. It’s too slow, too laboured, and everything feels like a struggle for it.
So, if you’re thinking of getting one of these, you really ought to spec the diesel.